The snowstorm that started Thursday night isn’t expected to stop until Friday morning – and some McHenry County residents can expect a foot or more, the National Weather Service predicted.
The service upgraded its winter storm watch in northern Illinois to a warning Thursday morning.
The warning went into effect at 6 p.m. Thursday and is expected to last until 9 a.m. Friday. The storm could bring with it 6 to 10 inches of snow – and some places might see up to a foot or more, according to the service.
“Travel will be very difficult to impossible at times, including during the morning commute on Friday,” the alert stated.
Visibility likely will be affected. The service encouraged motorists not to travel unless completely necessary and to keep an extra flashlight, food and water in their vehicles, in case of an emergency.
The snow will be lighter and fluffier rather than heavy, and the McHenry County Division of Transportation loaded its plows with salt Thursday morning.
MCDOT crews were on standby Thursday afternoon.
“For a storm of this magnitude, it will likely take a considerable amount of time after the storm to clear all streets,” Huntley officials said in a news release.
To help crews, residents can remove their cars from the streets, refrain from shoveling snow into the street and remove all snow and ice from vehicles before driving them.
Clearing snow from around fire hydrants also can assist firefighters in case of emergencies.
Residents should be wary of driving too close to snowplows, officials said.
“One of the biggest things that the plow operators will tell you is that people drive too close to the plow trucks and the drivers can’t see them,” MCDOT maintenance superintendent Ed Markinson said. “Keep your distance and remain patient, let the plow do its work, and you’ll get to your destination safely.”
Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn said a team is prepared to work around the clock to keep roads free of snow and ice.
“Before getting behind the wheel, please ask yourself if your trip is really necessary,” Blankenhorn said in a statement. “Consider taking public transportation or postponing your trip. If you must drive, be prepared to add plenty of extra time in your schedule.”
Schools close, services canceled
Officials in Community School District 300 in Algonquin, Alden-Hebron School District 19, Huntley School District 158, McHenry School Districts 156 and 15, Community High School District 155 and Woodstock School District 200 sent notices to staff and families Thursday afternoon that schools would be closed Friday because of inclement weather.
A spokesperson for Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47 said a call likely would not be made until the morning.
Other organizations canceled programs and operations ahead of anticipated Friday snowfall.
The Pioneer Center for Human Services’ day programs in McHenry and Woodstock will be closed Friday, said Laurie Bivona, the center’s director of marketing. McHenry County PADS and the organization’s group homes will operate as normal.
Garbage removal for McHenry and Algonquin residents on Friday’s route will be delayed until Saturday, according to a McHenry Public Works Department Nixle alert sent at 2:35 p.m.
Tips for seniors
Staff at Senior Services Associates, which has locations in Crystal Lake and McHenry, advised elderly residents to be extra cautious before, during and after the storm.
A spokesperson for the organization said seniors should bundle up before going outside, avoid driving and use walking assistance devices if they have them. Elderly residents only should try to shovel a small path in the snow, and take care when using hand warmers, as the devices can cause burns on fragile skin.
At-home food delivery also is an option while roads remain difficult.
“Yes, it’ll cost a little more, but you’ll be safe,” the spokesperson said.
Concerned family members or loved ones can contact their local police departments and ask for a well-being check to be performed. Police will prioritize the checks based on need, the spokesperson said.
Tips for drivers
The Illinois Department of Transportation offered some tips for residents heading into the storm.
• Take it slow, especially when approaching intersections, ramps, bridges and shady areas. All are prone to black ice, an invisible danger during some winter storms.
• Make sure your gas tank is full.
• Keep a cellphone, warm clothes, blankets, food, water, a first-aid kit, washer fluid and an ice scraper in your vehicle.
• Check the forecast and make sure someone is aware of your travel route and schedule.
• Carry a cellphone and dial *999 in the Chicago area for roadway assistance in case of an emergency. Reminder: Using hand-held phones while driving is illegal in Illinois, unless it is an emergency situation.
• Always wear a seat belt, whether you are sitting in the front or back seat.